I always imagined saying goodbye to Richard Hamilton would be difficult

“I never had an issue with Coach Kuester.” Richard Hamilton

When the Pistons bought out Richard Hamilton, I knew I should write something about his legacy in Detroit. For better or worse – and most of the time, better – Hamilton impacted the Pistons greatly in his nine years with the team, and I wanted to explore that in a post.

I just couldn’t.

I opened blank documents a few times, but my fingers wouldn’t type. There was no emotional connection to Hamilton anymore.

I rationalized that it was because I had already written his Pistons postmortem – a year ago. If you want to read about Hamilton’s ups and downs in Detroit, read that.

But yesterday, when I read this post’s lead quote – “I never had an issue with Coach Kuester” something finally kicked in:

Disdain.

I have really grown to dislike the image of Hamilton I see. That Hamilton is rude, conniving and fake.

I know that’s unreasonable. I understand there’s a large side of him I’m not privy to. I want to make clear there very well could be a difference between the Hamilton I see and the real Hamilton.

But I also hope he sees what he’s doing, how he alienated all but the most loyal fans he had left in Detroit.

Rip is aging. That’s a tough reality for anyone, especially someone who relies on his body for a living. I empathize will Hamilton. I really do. His response to that, though, is to teleport into some alternate universe.

I wish I lived in Hamilton’s fantasy land, a place where the only thing keeping him from elite production is playing time, where players didn’t age and where he never had issues with John Kuester. I want to like Hamilton again.

He’s arguably the worst player to lead a championship team in scoring since the NBA began calling itself the NBA. He certainly had the worst points per game average of any such player in the last 60 years. And I mean it as an absolute compliment.

In and around Detroit, we don’t mind doing things the hard way. We just like when things work. Hamilton’s mid-range game was the hard way. Few players zig and zag around the court, around screen after screen, like Hamilton did at his peak. It was awesome. And it was inefficient. Hamilton would have been much better served developing his 3-point range, where baskets are worth 50 percent more points than his long jumpers. But it worked, and I loved Hamilton for it.

I really wish we could all go back to that time, but I don’t live with Hamilton in his fantasy land. All I see is him trying to shirk responsibility for what wrong in Detroit, a toxic situation created in large part because of his attitude.

That the Pistons brought back Tayshaun Prince, a free agent, and dumped Hamilton, who had $19 million left guaranteed on his contract, should tell you a lot about how untenable the situation had become. Like I said, I made my peace a  year ago with Hamilton’s end with the Pistons.

So, as Detroit moves on without him, I just don’t feel that different. The Rip I grew up watching has been gone for a couple years now.

I hope Hamilton finds that Rip in Chicago. Playing for a contender, especially one with Derrick Rose at point guard, will mean HOAM should show up more often. There will be plenty of nights Hamilton makes the Pistons look foolish for dropping him, even though his effort probably wouldn’t have been the same for them.

But I just don’t think Hamilton will find happiness in Chicago, or anywhere else, until he stops blaming everyone else and accepts that age is chiefly responsible for his decline. Few athletes age gracefully and watching closely those who don’t is unsettling.

I still yearn for the charismatic Rip, always smiling, punching his teammates before games. I just don’t see him returning – and I’m sick of watching this player I no longer like, quietly wishing his attitude could somehow just flip back in time a few years.

Enjoy Chicago, Rip. Thanks for making the end easy to handle.

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Tags: Richard Hamilton Tayshaun Prince

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